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Risk Hierarchy: Information - Rider Ed - Driver Ed - Conspicuity - Bike Defect - Ultra-Defensive Riding - Crash Avoidance - Injury Mitigation - Crash Scene

bike and blackboardMotorcycle Skills Practice

OK, you took a BRC, maybe even an ERC, so now you know everything you need to be safe on the road.

Not by half, we are sorry to say. These courses are what they are: they qualify you to do maneuvers in a parking lot.

We consider it essential to regularly practice emergency skills, to study up on defensive riding techniques, and to get more advanced training on a periodic basis.

We take our cue from the three major groups of professional bikers: bike cops, racing riders and bike couriers. Motor police have training exercises every month or so. Racing riders have very advanced training. The couriers we have met take a constant interest in safety issues and are usually a mine of information.

The basic accident avoidance techniques of emergency stopping and swerving around an obstacle are essential on-bike training.

Desert rally bike

Two important skills can be practiced on the road, as recommended in the MSF Basic RiderCourse.

Quick Stops

Emergency braking should be practiced carefully. Our emergency braking page gives optimal instructions for braking, and we need to use the same braking procedures when we stop regularly as when we stop for an emergency. This will help get our emergency braking into muscle memory. Brake optimally every time and slowly build up your braking skills, keeping it under your bike's wheel lock points.

It is possible to practice this on the road, by braking more aggressively than required for yellow lights, when conditions (weather, traction, following traffic, etc) allow this to be done safely. With practice, you can probably learn to stop in less than 150 feet from 60 MPH, including reaction time, in optimal conditions. This will put you in the top one percent of riders. Take it slowly, brake progressively and keep it within your and your bike's limits as you build up your skills. Follow the instructions given in your BRT and ERT, and the emergency braking page. Avoid front or rear wheel lock, but be ready to handle either if they happen. This is difficult, as wheel lock is just a touch past optimal braking force. When braking in wet or other poor traction conditions, remember that your bike will react very differently, and you can expect to take at least 25 percent longer to brake in the wet.

The difficulty of braking optimally can't be over-emphasized. Just a touch past optimal braking force comes front or back wheel brake lock. These can be recovered - a front lock should be countered by letting off the front brake momentarily, and reapplying the brake after the wheel regains traction. A failure here will cause a low-side crash. The recommendation for a rear lock is to keep the lock and ride it to a stop. Letting off a rear brake lock can be catastrophic. If the rear wheel is not perfectly aligned, releasing the brake lock will cause a very violent, high-side crash, and you will be hurt bad. We repeat, in a rear wheel lock, you must keep the lock and ride it home to a standstill, unless you know the wheels are perfectly aligned.

Swerving Practice.

Swerving can safely be done on the road in a single lane, by practicing on road debris, manhole covers and the like. Or you can take it to an empty parking lot and practice cone weaves. The thing to remember here is, if on the road, stay in your lane, and don't use your brakes while swerving.

Here's a video from Capt. Crash.

Swerving is simple. First countersteer in one direction, pass the obstacle, then countersteer in the other direction to resume your previous direction of travel. It should be done without braking and with suspension in a neutral position, if possible, so that the suspension has travel available up or down to deal with road irregularities without instability.

If you need to combine emergency braking and swerving, first do one and then the other, it's two separate things. You would prefer to swerve first without braking, then brake later, rather than the other way around.

Parking Lot Skills Practice.

If you have taken a Basic or Experienced Rider Course, or the Ride like a Pro training, and you remember the basic instructions of looking and turning your head where you plan to go, the friction zone, using the rear brake in control mode, and counter weighting, you are ready to practice in a parking lot. If not, then take a course, or use one of the books or videos in our training reviews page to review or develop the skills you need. Then you can use our links below to practice in an empty parking lot.

Choose a parking lot that has a clean surface, and pick a quiet corner where you won't be disturbed by cages. This probably works better if you bring a buddy, he will help you sort out form problems and can dial 911 if there is a problem. If you are a member of a riding group, why not make it a group event and have some fun.

Some professional trainers like to video riders doing range maneuvers as it helps with review later. Make sure that the parking lot surface is free of gravel and trash, and use tennis balls cut on half, or flat-top cones, as markers. The cones can be bought online or in discount store sporting departments.

Parking Lot Practice on the Cheap

Captain Crash kindly posted this link on our blog, from Idaho Star motorcycle training organization. It has a set of skills exercises that can be done using regular parking lot markings and a few cones, complete with directions, coaching tips and troubleshooting guide. This is probably the cheapest and simplest way to practice in a parking lot.

Police-style Parking lot Practice

We have resources in our training reviews page for setting up your own parking lot exercises, which is something you could do cheaply with a couple of riding buddies. Here's our 'Ride like a Pro' book review., and the DVD review. Either the book or the video has enough instructions for someone who has had basic training or to set up their own range exercises, using some chalk, a tape and some halved tennis balls or flat cones. The book and video are actually coordinated so you would get extra benefit from having both. Or you could sign up for his course in one of his franchise locations. There's also a practice guide on the Ride like a Pro site, and Jerry's series of articles on form and technique. We like the way the Ride like a Pro folks have set up their resources, from free to DIY media to range courses.

Paladino's range layouts are a little harder to set up than the Idaho Star, but his resources are much deeper.

BRC Range Exercises

Daytona Motorcycle Training has published the MSF BRC range layouts, so you could, if you prefer the MSF course range layouts, set them up from here. They are complicated, but you can always sign up for their ERC if you need extra tutoring, so there is backup.

Skills Practice Summary

We need to say again: riding skills are essential, especially if you find yourself in an imminent crash situation. But we much prefer to practice ultra-defensive riding, so we never get there. If you do some training or practice, remember that hubris - over confidence - applies. In most crash situations the rider has less than two seconds to react.

Bikesafer.com is your resource for studying up on technique and defensive topics. We invite you to use us like a dog for finding safety projects. Consider us part of your continuing bike education, or follow our links to other safety-related sites.

Every now and then, you should sign up for some advanced training, our on-line training map will guide you. Bikers are like sharks, we need to keep swimming to survive. Advanced training, of the flavor you fancy, is the way to keep learning new skills.